22 May 2014

History: Photos from the 1968 Southeast Asia Tour

One of my uncles - the one I'm not very close with - joined the Army in the late 60's to fight Communists. (That was a thing people did back then. Eventually we even had a draft to bulk up the armed forces, sent a bunch of people to the other side of the world at great expense. A lot happened and over 50,000 Americans were killed. You may have read about it.) Anyway, he quit a promising career in the military and became a journalist. Presumably because he wanted to spend his life earning peanuts and not getting shot at (as opposed to just earning peanuts in the Army, although when you get promoted you can make pretty good money, especially in retirement).

Anyway, he took a lot of pictures when he was there but he never talks about it. Ever. These photos were found in my grandfather's stuff that he never got around to sorting through until recently. That is an old-school M16 and some seriously retro (and bad ass, back in the day) tiger stripe camo. He was a medic in the Green Berets, hence the Special Forces camo and Montagnards.

Imagine my surprise when these hit the inbox. This is what he says:
Going through a box of my dad's stuff that I'd stored since he died and came across these, taken 46 years ago this month. They're old enough now to be actual historical photos....

I don't remember the top one at all--probably shot by one of my Montagnards. The lower one is a little girl with malaria. We went into a village called Plei Bong on a Medcap (Medical Civil Action Patrol) and her dad brought her out to me. She had a high fever alternating with chills, so I called in a helicopter evac. Didn't occur to me at the time, but It was a pretty primitive area, two days' walk to get in, people eating monkeys and rats, and suddenly a Huey appeared and whisked the whole family to an American hospital. They must have thought they'd been abducted by aliens....

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